November 19, 2002
By Richard Prasad
the DU 4th Quarter Fundraising Drive!
Yes, it's that time of year again -
when we beg for money to keep Democratic Underground
online. Unfortunately the site doesn't run by
magic - it costs money. And without money, there's
no DU. So please take a moment right now
lot has been made about the Democrats lack of a cohesive message
lately. While it is true that the Democrats didn't have a
clear message of vision for November's midterm, it is also
true that many of the potential issues that Democrats could
have used against President Bush were co-opted by Bush and
presidential guru Karl Rove.
Early on in the administration, so early now that people
have forgotten, Bush signed the Education Bill co-sponsored
by none other than Ted Kennedy. Unlike traditional conservatives,
like Newt Gingrich, Bush did not want to destroy the Department
of Education, he did not even fight for vouchers in the education
bill. Bush shrewdly understood that the same court that handed
him the Presidency, would also rule favorably on vouchers,
and so they did. Democrats could no longer say that Republicans
Another issue that Bush took away from the Democrats was
campaign finance reform. All throughout the 2000 campaign,
George W. Bush ran against campaign finance reform, and used
the big monied interests in the Republican part to club John
McCain into submission in the Republican primaries. But when
the vote came and Bush saw that the majority of people were
for campaign finance reform, he did a flip flop and signed
the bill. Once again, Bush's fondest hope is that the Rehnquist
led court will find McCain-Feingold unconstitutional.
Sometimes the Democrats used Bush's unwillingness for confrontation
to their advantage. For example in the airport security legislation,
Republicans were initially against federalizing security workers,
but in the end the Democrats prevailed because private companies
had screwed up airport security so badly that Republicans
could not reasonably argue that privatization of airport security
was the best alternative. Still, the Democrats no longer had
an issue to run on in airport security.
To placate the farmers in the so called red states, Bush
signed the Farm Bill. Gone were the traditional republican
concern for fiscal responsibility and deficit spending. If
they were ever Republican concerns. Lest the reader forget,
Reagan ran the biggest deficits in history, and the public
seemed happily oblivious. His prodigy, Bush Jr., seems to
be following in Reagan's footsteps. And the country seems
Even on the war in Iraq, Bush co-opted what was essentially
the Democratic position on the war. Early on, it seemed like
Bush favored the go it alone, unilateral cowboy approach that
had been a feature of his foreign policy. But then, he shunned
the hard-line Cheney-Rumsfeld approach, and went to the UN,
offered a resolution, and after two months of fits and starts,
the resolution passed 15-0. Bush emerged a multilateralist,
even if he doesn't believe in multilateralism in his heart,
and the Democrats lost yet another issue.
Does Bush's strategy absolve the Democrats from not fighting
against certain Bush policies harder than they did? HELL NO!
One example is the tax cut. >From day one, Democrats should
have been screaming from every corner that this was a tax
cut primarily for the wealthy, proposed repealing such tax
breaks such as the inheritance tax and the top rate cut and
propose a smaller tax cut targeted towards the middle class,
like a cut in the payroll tax, or expanding the earned income
tax credit. The cries of "class warfare" would be heard from
Republican circles, but the Democrats would be on the right
side of the tax issue, and the battle would be joined.
Middle class tax cuts would be good economic policy as well,
since the middle class is larger than the wealthy, putting
money in our pockets would truly spur economic activity and
result in sustained growth.
The Democrats should have also hit Bush harder on corporate
responsibility and Enron. Enron manipulated prices is California
and FERC did nothing to stop it. And yet the Democrats were
silent on this. People understand price gouging when they
see it. Democrats should have positioned themselves as the
champions of the little guy, fighting Republican special interest
like big oil and energy companies. Democrats silence on Enron
will forever puzzle me.
Part of the answer may be Terry McAuliffe, the ubiquitous
money raising friend of Bill Clinton, and head of the DNC.
A party can't fight corporate corruption and go begging the
same corporate honchos for money. The Democrats need to cut
their ties to corporate whores like Terry McAuliffe, and return
to their roots, fighting for the middle class.
The rest of the answer is that Bush again co-opted a Democratic
issue by signing the Sarbanes corporate responsibility bill,
again stealing the Democrats thunder, and leaving them issueless.
There is still a chance for Democrats. Here is what I propose.
When Republicans propose making the President's tax cut permanent,
Democrats should fight it tooth and nail. Second, fire Terry
McAuliffe, and install someone in the DNC that will appeal
to grass roots working class people. Third, fight Bush on
corporate responsibility. Point out that Harvey Pitt and William
Webster will not engender faith in the investing public, and
until that faith is restored, the stock market will not return
to its 1990's glory. And fourth, point out that the war in
Afghanistan is not working and requires a patient long term
approach and not the cut and run policy favored by the Bushies.
Keep hope alive Democrats, don't allow yourselves to be co-opted
and marginalized by the likes of Bush and Rove, whose only
interest is getting re-elected.